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23 April 2013

The Fukushima Corporate Made Disaster

It's been a few months now since the Japanese government released their 440 page report on the Fukushima disaster.[1] They blame just about everybody imaginable, going back decades before the place was even built. But glaringly absent from the long blame-list is the company that built the time bomb - General Electric. Their poor design was as much a cause of the escalation of the disaster as anything else, but yet they're blameless. I call BS. 
Japanese engineers working on the plant wanted to modify the design to make it more resistant to...tsunami's! But bureaucrats, in awe of the venerable GE, demanded they build it just like GE said. So when the tsunami came - disaster. 
Specifically, GE designed the units with the emergency cooling units in the basement of the reactor building. Japanese engineers (and presumably any one with common sense) saw that this was idiotic, as the cooling units were susceptible to flooding.
After a couple of decades of operation, less ignorant thinking prevailed and it was decided to move the emergency cooling pumps onto higher ground. But, in an act of residual dumbness, the switches that powered the pumps were left in the basement.
The tsunami comes, the basements were flooded, and the pumps, previously moved to a safer location, couldn’t be run because the switches were underwater in the basement. Time was wasted trying to pump the water out of the switchgear. Of course that didn't work, so time was wasted trying to re-wire the pumps from an alternate source. That didn't work because cables weren't available. All the time, the reactor cores were melting down - the infamous China Syndrome. 
A second monumentally asinine design feature placed the highly radioactive used fuel rods on the fourth floor of the reactor building. Without constant cooling they generate enough heat to self ignite, resulting in a radioactive fire that could (still can) produce enough radioactive fallout to kill every human being on earth several times over. 
But, since the failure of the cooling pumps, the meltdown of the reactor cores and the resulting explosions, there is no way to cool the spent fuel rods suspended on the fourth floor. Workers are reduced to spraying water on them, further contaminating everything with the runoff. The containers previously holding the cooling water were compromised in the explosions and no longer hold water.
Various ecological and scientific groups say this situation is the gravest immediate threat facing mankind. 
If the reactors had been designed specifically for Fukushima, instead of a package design built for Kansas, there would not have been a disaster other than the temporary shutdown of production.

The cost of corporate greed is incalculable.